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Andrew Bair


Wine guru




Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:16 pm



WTN: Quick thoughts from a Chardonnay tasting {long}

by Andrew Bair » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:01 pm

A big thank you to Marty's in Newton, MA for offering a large group of Chardonnays to taste a couple of weeks ago - mostly from California and Burgundy, but also from a few other parts of the world. It's taken a while for me to write up some notes - really, quick impressions - on these wines. In the process of the tasting, I learned that Chardonnay isn't the easiest grape to taste 50+ wines from in a single afternoon; it was a challenge to try to do justice to all of them at once. I've done better going through similar numbers of Cabs and Pinots in the past, as far as being able to pick out the clear differences once I got past the 30th wine or so.

Some of my favorite wines here included the Evening Land Mad Hatter and Bien Nacido Vineyards' own bottling, along with the more expensive still Chardonnay from Franciacorta specialist Ca' del Bosco. For QPR, I really liked the Leeuwin Estate Prelude Vineyards, Servin Chablis Les Pargues, Chataigneraie-Laborier Pouilly-Fuissé, and the Louis Latour Montagny; all of which were selling for $22 or less on the day of the tasting.

Note that my prices reflect markdowns in honor of the tasting.

The list:

2011 Jordan Vineyard & Winery Chardonnay Russian River Valley
Decent, fairly standard California Chardonnay with moderate oak. $29.

2011 Talbott Vineyards Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
Moderately full-bodied, round, a bit tight, moderately oaky, with tropical and citrus notes. Good/very good. $32.

2009 Flowers Vineyard and Winery Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
Full, with moderate oak that is pretty well integrated by now. Shows notes of white/golden fruits, hazelnuts, caramel, and spices. Maybe a touch lacking in acidity for my palate? Good+. $37.

2009 Belle Pente Vineyard Chardonnay Belle Pente Vineyard Willamette Valley
Medium-bodied, well balanced, more mineral, lightly oaky, with apple, white fruit, and lightly tropical notes. Very good/excellent. $26.

2009 Domaine de la Tournelle Chardonnay Arbois “Terre de Gryphées”
Medium-bodied, nutty, moderately acidic, more restrained, some minerals/earth, white and yellow fruit. Good, but for some reason it never kept my attention in the way other Tournelle wines have before. $20.

2010 Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley
Full, well balanced/structured, round, lightly oaky, with white peach, apple, pear, mineral, and lightly spicy notes. Excellent. $41.

2011 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Chardonnay Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast
Full, moderately oaky, well balanced, smooth, moderately structured, lightly mineral, with white fruit, honeyed, and nutty notes. Very good+. $35.

2011 Viña Montes Chardonnay “Alpha” Casablanca Valley
Smoky/nutty nose. Moderately full-bodied; hits you with rather blunt oak, plus apple, tropical, and walnut notes. Not my favorite. $14.

2010 Domaine Erell et Flavien Ninot Rully 1er Cru Grésigny
Medium-bodied, lightly oaky, moderately acidic, with apple, white fruit, nutty/lightly spicy notes. Good+. $27.

2011 Domaine Servin Chablis Les Pargues
Les Pargues used to be a 1er cru, but was demoted when there was no wine made there for a few years at one point.
Light to medium-bodied, elegant, focused, with good acidity; chalky, with citrus/white fruit notes. Very good+. $20.

2011 Domaine Pascal Bonhomme Viré-Clessé Vieilles Vignes
Light to medium-bodied, moderately acidic, lightly round, fruitier, with citrus, apple, peach, and melon notes; plus some understated minerals, and a bit of smoke. Very good. $20.

2008 Domaine Hubert Bouzereau-Gruère et Filles Puligny-Montrachet
Moderately full-bodied, elegant, structured, still very primary, with white fruits, minerals, and some light oak. Potentially excellent. $49.

2011 Domaine du Château de Pierreclos Saint-Véran
Floral, lightly steely, lightly mineral; medium-bodied, moderately acidic, pleasant, with pear and white peach notes. Good/very good. $18.

2010 Domaine de la Garenne Mâcon-Azé
Light to medium-bodied, elegant, easy to drink; lightly mineral, with white fruit notes. Good. $20.

2009 Domaine Jacques et Nathalie Saumaize Pouilly-Fuissé
Basic bottling. Medium-bodied, with good acidity for 2009; steely, with mostly white peach flavors; some pear/apple notes. Very good. $20.

2011 Domaine A. Chopin et Fils Côte du Nuits-Villages Blanc Les Monts de Boncourt
From a single parcel in the village of Corgoloin. Moderately full-bodied, ripe, well balanced, a bit tight, with good acidity for the vintage; steely, with white/yellow fruit flavors. Very good, especially in the context of the appellation. $20.

2009 Collection Blanchon Corton-Charlemagne Vieilles Vignes
Full-bodied, structured, lightly toasty, round, with white/golden aromas/flavors, plus a touch of anise. Will develop nicely. Excellent. Bottled for the importer Alain Blanchon. $90.

2011 Morgan Winery Chardonnay “Highland” Santa Lucia Highlands
Medium-bodied, round, not too structured, with toasty oak, and predominately tropical flavors; a bit of anise. Decent/good; could be better, though. $20.

2012 ZD Chardonnay California
Moderately full-bodied, moderately acidic, smooth, round, with notes of peaches, apricots, golden raisins, honey, and oranges. Very good. $28.

2011 Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Saint-Aubin
Medium-bodied, moderately built, rather mineral, with notes of white peaches, grapefruit, and honey. Very good. $27.

2012 Alpha Omega Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley
Moderately full-bodied, moderately structured, ripe, toasty, buttery, spicy, with tropical and hazelnut notes. Kind of overdone if you ask me. $29 (the 2010 is currently $62 on the winery’s website).

2011 Domaine Chataigneraie-Laborier (Gilles Morat) Pouilly-Fuissé “Terroirs de Vergisson”
Medium-bodied, well balanced, focused, lightly mineral, with white peach, melon, and spice notes. Very good+. $19.

2011 Maison Louis Latour Montagny 1er Cru La Grande Roche
Full-bodied, moderately structured, rounder, lightly spicy, with honey white and yellow fruits. Very good/excellent. A great QPR for $18.

2011 Red Car Wine Company Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
Full, round, citrusy, lightly buttery, lightly stony/spicy,, with apple flavors. Very good. $33.

2010 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills
Smoky, moderately full, moderately acidic, balanced, tropical, lightly nutty/citrus. Good. $27.

2010 Brewer-Clifton Chardonnay Mount Carmel Vineyard Santa Rita Hills
Full, a bit low in acidity, perhaps; smoky, spicy, with tropical, citrus, butterscotch, and hazelnut notes. Good+. $21.

2010 Evening Land Vineyards Chardonnay Edna Valley Blue Label
Medium-bodied, moderately structured/acidic; lightly nutty/honeyed, with white and golden fruit notes. Very good. $21.

2010 Evening Land Vineyards Chardonnay Mad Hatter Willamette Valley
From a single site. Moderately full, elegant, lightly oaky, mineral, with notes of white fruits, honey, and anise. Excellent. $37.

2010 àMaurice Cellars Chardonnay Connor Lee Vineyard Columbia Valley
Medium to full-bodied, moderately structured, well balanced, round, lightly oaky, with tropical fruit, apricot, mineral, and hazelnut notes. Very good. $25.

2009 Ramey Wine Cellars Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard Russian River Valley
Lightly herbal/peppery, full, round, well balanced, lightly nutty, with white/gold fruits, honey, and minerals. Excellent. $49.

2011 PlumpJack Winery Chardonnay Reserve Napa Valley
Mineral/nutty nose. Full, round, lightly oaky, fresh, moderately structured, with tropical, citrus, apple, and honey notes. Very good/excellent. $44.

2011 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Prelude Vineyards Margaret River
Full, moderately structured, lightly oaky, mineral, with white fruit, orange, and pineapple notes. Very good/excellent. $22.

2009 Ca' del Bosco Curtefranca DOC Chardonnay “duemilanove”
Full, round, structured, rich, lightly nutty, floral, with tropical, apricot, apple, honey, mineral notes, plus a bit of vanilla. Excellent. $72.

2011 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay Carneros
Medium-bodied, mineral, steely, moderately acidic, lightly round, with white peach, floral, and lemon notes. Very good. $20.

2011 Patz & Hall Wine Company Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
Medium-bodied, smooth; moderately acidic; pretty, with less oak. Good/very good. $25.

2011 Patz & Hall Wine Company Chardonnay Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley
Medium to full-bodied, smooth, with light to medium toast, and moderate acidity; lightly nutty, with tropical, and white and yellow fruit notes. Very good. $32.

2011 Patz & Hall Wine Company Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard Carneros
Moderately full-bodied, with a bit more oak, and a bit more structure; shows notes of tropical fruits, fresh nuts, vanilla, oranges, and melons. Very good+. $49.

2010 Newton Vineyard Chardonnay “Unfiltered” Napa County
Full-bodied, moderately oaky, well balanced, round; with tropical, stone fruit, vanilla, and caramel notes. As usual, this is in enjoyable wine. Very good/excellent. $45.
Incidentally, I’ve yet to find anything from any other producer labeled with the Napa County AVA.

2012 Neyers Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros
Moderately full, in a more elegant/restrained style; smooth, less structured than some, perhaps? Lightly mineral/toasty, with white, yellow, and tropical fruit notes. Very good. $23.

2010 Domaine François Carillon Puligny-Montrachet
Moderately full-bodied, smoky, lightly spicy/mineral, with moderate acidity, and apple/tropical notes. Good, but nothing great as far as Puligny. $50.

2011 Shafer Vineyards Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch Carneros
Full, moderately oaky, well balanced, lightly mineral, with white/tropical fruit flavors, and some hazelnut and caramel notes. Very good/excellent. $46.

2011 Stuhlmuller Vineyards Chardonnay Alexander Valley
Medium-bodied, balanced, rather spicy, with tropical, hazelnut, and some caramel notes. Good. $19.

2011 Bodega Catena Zapata Chardonnay Catena Alta “Historic Rows” Mendoza
Medium to full-bodied, lightly oaky, well balanced, lightly oily, with peach, orange, nut, and caramel notes. Very good. $23.

2012 CrossBarn Winery (Paul Hobbs) Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
I remember liking it, but for some reason I did not take down any notes. $25.

2011 Justin Vineyards & Winery Chardonnay Paso Robles
Medium-bodied, ripe, a bit sweet, with orange, tropical, and yellow fruit flavors. Maybe a bit floral. Just decent. $15.

2010 Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay Cold Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley
Full-bodied, smoky, forward, lacking distinction. Drinkable, but no more than that. $19.

2011 Copain Wine Cellars Chardonnay “Tous Ensemble” Anderson Valley
Medium-bodied, moderately acidic, steely, peachy, lightly tropical, with melon, citrus, and floral notes. Very good. $23.

2012 Freemark Abbey Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley
Full, not too oaky, rather fruity, slightly mineral, with notes of apples, apricots, oranges, nuts, and vanilla. Good/very good. $17.

2011 Hartford Court (Hartford Family Winery) Chardonnay Russian River Valley
Moderately full, well balanced, with golden fruit, tropical, floral, nutty, and vanilla notes. Very good. $25.

2011 Stonestreet Chardonnay Broken Road Alexander Valley
Smoky, full, round, well balanced, with notes of yellow fruits, minerals, hazelnuts, spices, honey, and anise. Very good/excellent. $31.

2010 Walter Hansel Winery and Vineyard Chardonnay The Meadows Vineyard Russian River Valley
Full-bodied, lightly oaky, moderately acidic, lightly stony, well balanced, with tropical, citrus, and hazelnut notes. Very good. $25.

2012 County Line Vineyards (Radio-Coteau) Chardonnay Anderson Valley
Full-bodied, well balanced, with no obvious signs of oak; quite tropical, with citrus notes; maybe some minerality? Good. $25.

2011 Domaine Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre Chablis
Light in weight, well balanced, elegant, with good acidity; mineral, with white fruit, citrus, and lightly floral notes. Very good. $21.
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Harry Cantrell


Ultra geek




Tue Mar 28, 2006 7:18 pm

Re: WTN: Quick thoughts from a Chardonnay tasting {long}

by Harry Cantrell » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:58 pm

Hope you were spitting! The drunkest I ever saw guests was at a Chard tasting that had less number of wines than you sampled.
Harry C.
no avatar



Lifelong Learner




Mon Mar 27, 2006 1:23 pm


Fayetteville, NC

Re: WTN: Quick thoughts from a Chardonnay tasting {long}

by JC (NC) » Wed Sep 25, 2013 11:06 am

Thanks for the notes. I wrote down six names that I would like to try based on your opinion.
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Michael Malinoski


Wine guru




Thu Sep 21, 2006 6:11 pm


Sudbury, MA

Re: WTN: Quick thoughts from a Chardonnay tasting {long}

by Michael Malinoski » Wed Sep 25, 2013 6:11 pm

Wish I could have made it, Andrew. Just couldn't get over there with so much else going on that day. It sounds like there were more than a few wines worth purchasing.

We just had the '08 Ramey Ritchie last month and really enjoyed it. It sounds like the '09 is worth a try, as well, huh?

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Andrew Bair


Wine guru




Tue Sep 07, 2010 10:16 pm



Re: WTN: Quick thoughts from a Chardonnay tasting {long}

by Andrew Bair » Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:53 pm

Michael Malinoski wrote:Wish I could have made it, Andrew. Just couldn't get over there with so much else going on that day. It sounds like there were more than a few wines worth purchasing.

We just had the '08 Ramey Ritchie last month and really enjoyed it. It sounds like the '09 is worth a try, as well, huh?


Michael, I have not had the Ramey Ritchie before, but definitely liked the 2009. Sounds like the 2008 is quite nice, too.

Harry - Yes, I was spitting, of course. :D
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David M. Bueker


Riesling Guru




Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:52 pm



Re: WTN: Quick thoughts from a Chardonnay tasting {long}

by David M. Bueker » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:26 am

Wow that is a lot of Chardonnay!

As for Ramey - one of the few California Chardonnay producers I like.
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